It is sometimes said that change is necessary and beneficial. This past Thursday, San Benito High school sent out its weekly electronic newsletter and proudly stated that the board had voted unanimously to proceed with the idea of changing the name from San Benito High School to Hollister High School.
They made some very positive and compelling arguments. The ASB president, who is an outstanding young man (and I wish him all the best success), some of the school board members and superintendent (whom I consider myself fortunate to know and call friends), and a few community members whom I like and highly respect all came out on the side of Hollister High School.
But my question to all of these people is, “Who gave you the right to change the name?” For well over 100 years people from all over San Benito County have attended and graduated from San Benito High School. It’s almost mathematically possible that eight generations from the same family could have attended the school.
The board may have the legal right to change the name, but does it have the “moral” right to do so. The wonderful thing about San Benito High school is that almost every kid in San Benito County goes there for high school. Whether you own the land or work it, whether you work in Silicon Valley, whether you build or repair things, whether you heal, educate, serve or minister to people to earn a living your kids all go through the school. They play on the same offensive line, they march in the same band, they sit in the same classes, they ride the same floats at homecoming, and it serves as a unifying force for the whole county.
When I was first hired we were required to memorize the vision and mission statements. In the vision statement these words occur: “the educational and cultural center of the county.” Not the community, not Hollister—the county. San Benito High School is the glue that keeps this county whole, safe and cohesive.
One of the arguments was about the block H on the letter jackets, and what it stands for. Originally, the nickname was the “Huskies”—not the dog, but for the “husky” farm boys who went to school there. It was later changed to the HayBalers when Hollister was the hay storage capital of the world. The H worked for both, and it does also work for Hollister.
I suspect that the reason this has come to a “head” right now is it’s the first step in a move to build a second high school. In essence, securing the brand name for the current school opens the door to move forward to explore opening others.
If the board and ASB are so confident the public supports the change, why not let the voters of San Benito County decide next November during the general election? If families are expected to pay property taxes to fund the school, and pass bond issues to remodel it then they can certainly have their voices heard in the naming of the school. Change can sometimes be necessary, sometimes beneficial, and sometimes both; but in my opinion, this change would be neither.